Having a baby is a lot like publishing your first book. Both processes take a lot of patience, good timing, and an incredible leap of faith—faith perhaps, being the most difficult to embrace.
If you’re a semi-neurotic writer, the what ifs can worm their way in to every pleasant thought, undermining sincere efforts to succeed. What if I can’t get the ending right? What if the characters don’t seem real? What if nobody will represent it? Publish it? Read it?
Yes—all this could happen. But it probably won’t.
Pregnancy for me was the same. It took my wife and me at least three years to get from the idea of conception to the precipice of action. The what ifs had me constantly taking backward steps. What if I can’t get pregnant? What if we suffer a miscarriage? What if I’m sick the entire pregnancy? The baby has developmental problems? It gets stuck in the birth canal?
I was indeed sick the entire pregnancy – the rest of those things, blessedly, did not happen.
The nine months of hyperemesis in which I lay on the couch, sipping gingerale, gave me a reprieve from the what ifs, because I was too sick to focus on anything except switching the television channel. I didn’t even read parenting books or keep a pregnancy journal – shocking to my friends and family who expected me to be buying out Chapters.
Nope. Barfing – that was it.
And now that the Gremlin is safely on the outside, I’m awake again, staring at the ceiling fan. In the first weeks – is she getting enough to eat? Is her poop supposed to be that colour? Suppose the dog trips me as I’m passing by the top of the stairs and I go tumbling down with her in my arms?
My logical side was locked in a box screaming “God, almighty—are you seriously worried about that?”
Ten weeks later, she’s in the 90th percentile for growth, and I’ve given up worrying that I’m not feeding her enough. Instead, I’m worried about giving her a sibling, spending enough time with her when I have to work, being able to afford to send her to private school, sheltering her from the idiots in the world who claim that she probably doesn’t want two mothers (story for another time).
The Gremlin stares at it. She loves it. She kicks her little legs and squeals and smiles as it spins.
I lie down beside her, exhausted from breastfeeding while working full time with insomnia, and I stare at the ceiling fan too. It looks different in the light of day.
It looks like a toy. A kite, maybe, or a plant with four leaves. I think how funny it must look to my newborn, who can watch it for hours without getting bored.
But what if she does get bored with it and I can’t find something she likes as much? What if she starts screaming through meal times instead of happily watching her fan?
And this is when my logical side finally bursts out of the box and waves its hands in front of my face. “Hello! Get a grip!”
I realise that I must find the off button for my brain. That somewhere, lurking at the back, possibly behind my left earlobe, there has to be a shut-off switch. Mothers worry – of course they do—but this is ridiculous.
How do I stop worrying? The same way I stopped doing the dishes five minutes ago. I just stop. Stop. Think of something else. Turn the dial. Look out the window. Count backwards from 47. Whatever.
Today, all she needs is the ceiling fan. Today, she has everything she wants and more. Today, I am a good parent for keeping her fed, clothed, and entertained, all while spending time with her.
Sleeper – check
Tomorrow, I’ll figure out how to pay for private school. And, possibly, install a safety gate at the top of those stairs….